Your Breast Face Forward: The Controversy Over Nursing Your Newborn

Supermodel Miranda Kerr Breastfeeding Her Newborn. Image Credit: Orlando Bloom.

I never understood the controversy over breastfeeding. In fact, until I moved to the States, I did not even know there was such a controversy over feeding your child with your breast. Is that not what they are meant for anyway?

Apparently not. Though this beautiful image of Supermodel Miranda Kerr breastfeeding her newborn son, Flynn was met with acceptance and warmth, the culture in the West does not always accept women nursing their young with open arms, especially in public. Anyone remember the storm the other Supermodel Gisele Bundchen caused when she said she did not understand why women would not breastfeed?

Salon’s Mary Elizabeth Williams articulates the larger problem we have with breasts, and what we culturally expect their prime function to be:

It’s easy to forget in our cleavage-obsessed culture, breasts are what put the mamm in mammals… But a woman using her rack for something other than an attention-getting accessory is often met with everything from discomfort to outright hostility…The beauty of breasts and their usefulness in parenting rarely cross paths in the public eye. It’s true, breasts can be eye candy and baby food. They can fill out a Victoria’s Secret push-up and inspire other nursing mothers. Yay, multitasking! Our bodies — even the sexy parts — aren’t designed for just one purpose all the time.

But it is not just men who “forget” what the main purpose of breasts are. Women apparently do as well, and this probably explains why everyone got so heated over Bundchen’s comments which I frankly, agreed with. Why would women choose chemical formula over natural breast milk for their newborns?

This is where I had to do some research. I found out that not all women are able to breastfeed, and their reasons for choosing not to range from a whole host of issues, both personal and psychological. I thought this answer I stumbled upon on the internet explained it best:

Some women cannot breastfeed because they are on medication that is not safe for the baby to have. Some women are undergoing chemotherapy or radiation therapy and can’t breastfeed. Some women don’t have enough breast tissue(very rare). Some women have been sexually abused and can not fathom a breast being used “for good”. They have psychological issues they are dealing with. Some women have never ever been around a “breast feeder” and it just seems unnatural to them, about as unnatural as formula seems to you. Someone have husbands/partners that see their breasts as sex objects only and tell their spouse they are not allowed to breastfeed(my friend’s hubs was like this). Some women had a bad experience the first time around and just don’t want to “hassle” with it again. Some women know nothing about breastfeeding, they don’t know anyone who breastfeeds, and don’t have all the breastfeeding resources that the rest of us do.

So while some women cannot or do not want to breastfeed, the overall factor is that it must be their choice. Society needs to accept that the main function of women’s breasts are not as sexual objects.

We also as a culture need to learn not to judge women over what they decide to do with their breasts. Often their reasoning is personal and complex. And that includes whether a woman decides to nurse, or not nurse, her newborn.

Kudos to Miranda Kerr for sharing with the world her choice,  and reminding us that in these cases,  mothers usually know best.

*This post of mine was also published on The Huffington Post.

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